Each trip with Flo has been unique, but I don’t think anything compares to these circumstances: traveling alone, across two states, during COVID, to care for my mother. Before COVID, I knew exactly what I was capable of. Because of the level of ambiguity we live in, lately I have found myself questioning my abilities.
As an adult, I have worked very consciously to live with faith in myself, not in fear. This trip really knocked me off my game. I heard the term Pre-TSD today while listening to the audiobook, “From What Is to What If” by Rob Hopkins. The term he described aligned with how going into this felt to me. Now that I’m just a few hours away from home and lying in Flo watching movies, my decompression is well underway. And I wish I had to do it all over again. I would have done it with less fear and more grace.
Part of taking care of my mom is getting up before dawn to water her gardens. She’s a master gardener and has plants and new trees throughout the property. It’s cooler in the morning and I love seeing what she has planted and her vision of an environment she enjoys being in. She finds peace there. And watering her gardens for her gave me peace too. I wish I would have taken photos. They really are beautiful. But watering itself takes about 2 hours and I have the heat to contend with and the help of two little ones too.
My mom is quite a trooper. Her natural ability as a healer has served her well. She was motivated to get back to work on projects she loves. In the meantime, between exercising and all the other things that go into her care, we spent time with my 9-year old niece and 7-year old nephew. You may have seen our live Facebook videos. We had a great time mixing Neuland inks and writing like Architects.
Project #1 was getting Heidi’s book published. The process started weeks ago when she wrote the book and presented it via Google slides to her family. They all agreed that she should publish the book. I had Heidi fill out this worksheet so we could talk about it when I got there.
Heidi says the book was intended for kindergardeners and was inspired by her brother, Gunner. He runs really fast. It’s short, funny, and has great a moral to the story. She wants people to buy it and listen/read it with their kids and grandkids. It will provoke lively discussion and there are some ways to interact with the book too.
After reading her work, we created a board outlining all the major tasks using a Neuland TopChart and Estatics. We determined we would create a self-published limited edition print version AND both an audiobook and eBook. The audiobook and eBook are bundled and available on GumRoad for $5 here. It’s a great way to support her creative efforts and the production costs for Heidi’s next book. Thanks for checking it out!
Each night, my dad liked to watch Gunsmoke. So on my way home, I decided to drive through Dodge City, Kansas and check out the sculptures. While I know that the show wasn’t filmed there, it was fun to make a quick pit stop and take in some history.
So overall, the trip was a success. I got to spend time with my mom and the kids. And Flo was right there when it was time to go. Despite the 3 hours of rain we drove through, she was dry when we stopped in Alamosa, Colorado for the night.
With every adventure I have in Flo, I learn more about myself and those around me. You become acutely aware of your thoughts, surroundings and people when traveling. Now that I know what I am capable of, the next adventure back to my hometown will be easier—I hope.
And now it’s time to plan the next adventure with Flo. There is just something magical when lying in her, surrounded by the beautiful Birch, a good book or sketchbook, and my thoughts.
From Southwest Colorado to Northeast Kansas, one experiences the first few lines from the song, America the Beautiful.
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
The first night in Flo was in WaKeeney, Kansas—hot but luckily Kansas offered a breeze, albeit 90F/32C. Laying in her even as the sun was down felt like lying in an oven—basting as the sweat rolls down the body with no physical effort.
For those who know me well, I don’t do heat. I rarely leave the house if it’s over 80F/26C—my melting temperature. You may think I’m kidding, but I’ve skipped important conferences, camping trips, and invitations to travel due to this strong preference. Before leaving for Kansas, I haven’t left the house in the middle of the day for over a month.
When the rising sun peered through the open window and warmed up the inside of Flo, I swiftly made my way back onto the road.
Driving the backroads from I-70 through Perry, McLouth, And Oskaloosa, I drive by high school friends’ houses and wondered where they were and what they were up to today. Many of the roads now paved, were once gravel. I flew through the scene of where I wrecked my first car. And I shut off the GPS once things were familiar. I have traveled the road leading to my parents house thousands of times, but it has been over a decade since I’ve been back during the summer. The amount of green reminded me of the south—lush and overgrown.
My life in Colorado is simple: no pets, no kids, no lawn, one plant. The retired life my mother lives is simple too—made interesting by grandkids, gardening and her wild imagination for travel and memories of life on the road. We can talk endlessly about where we have been and where we want to go next.
Her surgery is today. She’s under now as I write this. With the new COVID rules complicating all protocols, we await her arrival back home.
Homecoming’s are momentous occasions with much excitement and anticipation. Also, travel can be highly stressful during a Pandemic.
Like most little kids, in the 3rd grade I would draw pictures of mountains with trees, flowers and birds. Sporting my rainbow Mork suspenders (from the 1978 hit TV show Mork and Mindy) and blue Nike tennis shoes, I drew a little Jeep way in the background climbing a snow-capped mountain in the clouds. Little did I know that I was manifesting my future of living in the mountains of Colorado and driving a Jeep (sans suspenders).
As a visual practitioner, I continue to draw out my future in a map-like fashion and help others do the same. Over the past few weeks I have been doing the work. It’s emotional, taxing and quite unknown. My plan A to Z seems to be working albeit a bit shaky at times. I rest in knowing that’s the reality for many/all of us. Although I wish it weren’t the case.
It’s a 900-mile trip (one way) and will take me two days to get there pulling Flo. I have a campsite reserved with a few backups depending on how far I get and what I encounter.
Prepping for this trip back to my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas to take care of my mom is complicated by the pandemic. Had our leadership been more vigilant about containing the virus, my trip would be much safer by now. Instead I’m reading the COVID reports and I’m going to a place where there are 5x the number of cases. Unfortunately this little first aid kit won’t help much. I’m taking all the necessary precautions with masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, etc. to minimise my exposure. And packing a lot of food, water and pulling Flo so I don’t have to rent a hotel.
So as I drive away from the crisp mountain air and through the plains of Western Kansas, the little girl inside me squirms with anticipation—Artemis in me reassures her safety.
And as always, being on the road with Flo is an adventure.
For the first 3 hours of the trip, it was just me and Flo. I didn’t know if I could hook her up and drive her over two mountain passes by myself, but I did!
Until we got to campsite #4. I knew as soon as I drove in, I was going in at the wrong angle. It took me over 20 minutes of trying to park her in just the right spot. I finally gave up, drove out and turned it around going in the right direction and backed right in. Phew!
I then took off to pick up Ray to attend a work function for his new job. Then we were back at camp just after dark.
Ray got a view of the picnic table, sorry Ray! One of my favorite parts of sleeping in Flo is waking up to the first light when I crack open the door. Until then, she is pretty much lightproof.
We called this our “inventory trip.” We wanted to see if we brought everything and what we needed to bring next time. Nope. No firewood, no pans. So it was off to Silverton to have breakfast and get a few things at the store. We didn’t buy a pan because everything I was planning to make after this meal would be in foil and the pie iron. But we did purchase some stakes for the pop up tent and we are so glad we did! It got windy!
And after having to move camp TWICE, with 360 degree views, we got the best spot on the lake!
I was inspired by my colleague, Joleyne Mayers-Jaekel who went camping the week prior with an easel and flipchart paper and wrote out her menu with Art markers on paper. I had the challenge of working both sides of the marker (it’s a twin nib) and “Wacky Western” a lettering style from my new book, “Lettering Journey.” I took photos of the final piece, but later had to crumple it up to help build the fire.
And it doesn’t take much anymore to pack up camp and be on our way. What seemed to be monumental before just takes under an hour to break camp and get everything sorted to get back on the road.
After nearly two years since we left Flo in Kansas and landed back in Durango, Flo has made her way back to Colorado. I know my mom has had fun with her—hanging with her Sisters on the Fly and traveling to music festivals throughout the Midwest.
Within hours of Flo arriving in Durango, we had her registered and tagged as an official resident of La Plata County. And this past weekend we took her back out on the road. A 400 mile round-trip adventure to Palisade, Colorado for the Lavender Festival. We pulled into camp after dark with no prep, but the muscle memory kicked in right away and we were unhooked and ready to sleep at the James M. Robb River State Park in no time. The campground itself was quiet. The nearby highway and 3am train, not so much. But the first night was cool and I fell asleep and woke up with a smile on my face.
The Lavender Festival was wonderful. I highly recommend it and we plan to go again. I learned so much! After attending the workshop, “Using herbs, hydrosols and essential oils” with Dr. Cindy Jones of Colorado Aromatics, I was full of questions to ask the owners of the lavender farms we visited. Dave and Freda of Two Bears Farm and More were wonderful hosts during our visit to their lavender farm and art gallery. Dave and Ray chatted about mutual friends and acquaintances as I learned how some lavender like Imperial Grand smells sweet and flowery while others have a more camphor or medicine scent. Palisade experienced a lot of snowfall and rain this year so the fields were plush with purple and green.
In the afternoon, we escaped the heat by attending a Reflexology workshop with Susan Smith. She shared two kinds of hydrosol that we used to prep our hands and feet to give one another treatments and two kinds of CBD salves: lavender and mint for us to use as we learned how to use our fingers to massage one another’s feet. She was so generous and kind. Between Ray’s moaning and me falling asleep in my chair, I would say it was a good investment of time and effort.
As we were picking lavender among the bees, our guide Brian asked where we were headed next and recommended that we take a different way home over Grand Mesa. We are so glad we did! After two days in the hot sun, it was a welcome relief to drive through the mountains that still had a lot of snow on the ground. We gathered as much information as we could so we would have a nice, cool place to stay when we return next season.
It took longer than expected to get home, but it was well worth the drive and it gave me time to research and dream of our next adventure together.
We did take in a little water from her inside door seam, but not much. And we have a tail light to fix. All in all, a great first trip in Colorado. Now that the summer sun is beating down harder than ever, I will be in search of higher altitudes and cooler temps. I’m hoping to get a few more weekends in the mountains with Flo this month. If not, I may just have to sleep in her, parked in the garage.
The big question we had when we left DC back in March was where we would ultimately land. Funny thing is we had so much planned between then and now: two, month-long artist residencies and one picked up along the way, lettering workshops to teach, family to visit and not to mention the 3-month adventure we had with Flo, that we hadn’t really thought about where we would land much. In fact, we got asked this question more often from others than we asked ourselves. I guess it was intuitive where we landed that we really didn’t have to think about it.
Southwest Colorado is where our hearts and lives belong. We’ve been here one month now spending time with our Colorado family and friends. Here are a few of the highlights.
The moment we landed we started housesitting in Durango. It was nice to be there and have a little room to settle in by the river during the holiday weekend. It was like we hadn’t really stopped traveling yet. With housesitting gigs lined up through spring. I guess you could say we are still nomads.
Hanging out at the Mancos Grange has been a nice extension of our experience at the Old Trading Post in Paonia. The people growing, preparing, and gathering in celebration of food and our friends from Feins, have a deep connection with each other and the land. It was heartwarming to have one of our homecoming dinners here and to meet a demographic of Mancos we hadn’t known even when we lived here before. They offer a community dinner every second Sunday. The food is so good. And to quote Michelle Mercer from our residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, “The food is so packed with nutrition, I feel like Popeye after just one meal.”
Like being asked to paint signs (among other local requests), it took about a minute from the time we landed to find a studio space to settle into. As the town was all a hustle for Labor Day weekend, we quietly snuck into our new shared space (with my good friend and photographer, Kyla) and carved out a spot on the wall for me to start working. Ray and I refinished a small table that will become the base for many of my upcoming online lettering classes and with the help of my good friend Miki and Kyla’s dad, we now have a gorgeous 4′ x 8′ birch plywood wall that will become the backdrop to my online class offerings. Having the space allowed me to lay out my full online lettering curriculum, and list the printed books and other products I want to create in 2018.
We heard of Rosa Sabido’s story when we were on the road, but when we arrived to town, the postcards and t-shirts announcing her plight made it more real. Attending a vigil recognizing her 100 days in captivity was a beautiful experience for the town, her family and by the look on her face and the sharing of her poem it was for her too. You can read more about Rosa here.
Between helping Peggy with Willowtail Springs and designing an Appreciative Inquiry summit for November, answering the call to paint poems and excerpts from residents for their upcoming Reveries show at the Durango Arts Center, and moving into the new studio, I’m still able to make all of my 1:1 lettering coaching calls and virtual lettering classes. Life can get crazy sometimes, but there is always time for letters!
So here we are all safe and sound staying with Gawkie in Ray’s childhood home until we start housesitting again. As we transition from summer to fall days are full with peeling roasted chilis, chopping and stacking firewood, spending time with nephews, and eating tortillas, sopapillas, beans and green chili. Okay, that last part is year-round. We are just so happy to have full bellies and warm hearts.
After traveling over 13,000 miles we are happy to report that the only car trouble that we had was a burned out taillight and a bad gas cap. We were never robbed, nothing got stolen, neither of us got hurt or had to go to the hospital. I think we may have caught a cold but that’s it.
We may post again sharing our favorite places we visited and additional stories we may have forgotten to tell. One thing is for sure. We may be home again, but we are different having made this journey. We discovered that America was already great, people were kind nearly every where we went, and there is much to see and enjoy in this great country of ours.
Thank you for following our journey, for sharing your favorite stops along our route, and for the warm homecoming when we arrived back in Southwest Colorado.
If you don’t already follow us on social media and are interested, please feel free to follow our most requent posts on:
This last week was Flow in the making. From the moment I returned back from Cupertino until the moment we opened the doors to our Open Studio, I was working in the Flow state building a bridge from my commercial work to my fine art.
Pulling from my sketchbook, recent learnings from Carol DuBosch and Amity Parks, and completely new concepts only found in a space like Elsewhere Studios, I was an art-making machine! Over 30 pieces produced in less than 2 weeks time and exhibited in the main studio felt so good.
Ray had a wonderful showing of the portraits he took of locals. Upon entering the room, guests were impacted by either the projection of larger-than-life images on the wall or this fantastic child-specimen, Max, surrounded by black and white images.
It may seem surprising given Ray’s introverted nature, but he really has a way with people and capturing their essence. We often talk about his unique approach. He’s not the paparazzi type so while sometimes he misses snapping the shutter, he doesn’t miss anything in his observations. He takes the time to get to know people before asking to take their picture. And according to one of his new friends, “He asked me in a way that I couldn’t say no.” This was just after the man’s girlfriend asked how he let him take his picture. She stated, “he doesn’t let anyone take his picture!”
If you know me or my work, you know that I practice Panarchy in my personal and professional life. I’ve added a few new elements to the model including Integrate and a Release loop. These were always there, just not illustrated. The gouache-loaded brush simply inspired them to appear. This is by far my favorite piece in the show.
The works will stay up in the main gallery until Tuesday. We have a school group coming through and more works to create before leaving Paonia and heading back to Southwest Colorado.
Heather and I began our journey knowing that we needed to do something other than going directly back to southern Colorado. We love Colorado but knew a transition of some kind was needed. That is how we ended up at Arts, Letters and Numbers, (ALN) in upstate New York. A one month stay making art, surrounded by amazing people, at an artist in residency seemed to be an excellent way to transition away from Washington, DC. It turned out to be the perfect beginning to an amazing journey.
So here we are almost six months later as we begin to transition from being on the road back to southwest Colorado. Our intentions are to continue living the same purposeful life we lived during our travels as we continue forward. Looking back on our experiences we decided an artist residency to end our travels made perfect sense. Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO has again given us the opportunity to make art in an amazing space surrounded by great people.
But much like ALN the best part of Elsewhere Studios is the sense of community shared in Paonia. When meeting locals in town one mention of Elsewhere and you become one of them. Everyone invites you to events happening around town and are willing to help out any way they can. Many of the residency alumni have relocated to Paonia to become part of the community. One of the funniest traditions in Paonia is the “gifting” of zucchini squash. Since everyone has a garden and the fertile land of the valley all but guarantees a bumper crop each year of zucchini they are in abundance. So in an effort to pass them on to neighbors zucchini are left on the front seats of any vehicle in town found with the door unlocked. We have been very diligent in keeping our doors locked.
We have been to concerts, rodeos, community dinners and barbecues and each time we go, we meet someone we have met previously. One of my favorite places to visit is the Old River Road Trading Post. This place is a combination fresh produce market, restaurant and community meeting place. As Heather mentioned in an earlier post these are the people behind the Farm to Table movement in Paonia. Every Sunday an amazing meal made from locally grown foods is prepared for a community lunch. Anyone and everyone is invited to enjoy the food and the company of neighbors and travelers. The meal is served buffet style with salad made from vegetables grown in gardens and farms throughout the valley. Amazing desserts made from fruit of the many orchards are usually the big hit of the day, peach cobbler and apple crisp being on the top of the list. The meal is always contribute what you can and draws a diverse mix of diners.
At first glance Paonia seems like a sleepy little town with a valley full of farms and orchards. But it is a town that is rich in arts and culture boasting free concerts in the park with world class musicians, galleries, a clay studio, and artists of many genres creating work throughout the valley. It is also a town reliant on the past and looking to the future.
At one time Paonia was a coal town with several large coal mines operating in the North Fork Valley. Today only one mine remains operational with fears and rumors of its closing. Mine closings have had a great economic impact on businesses in the valley. Along with jobs many natives to the area fear losing it heritage as well. The town is also home to one the largest educational organizations dedicated to renewable energy sources. Emphasizing solar energy methods the organization is dedicated to training individuals in renewable energy sources.
The memories created in Paonia will always be a part of our amazing journey. We look forward to our remaining time at Elsewhere Studios as the perfect way to transition from our travels.
Ray and I have had the good fortune to be tourists in New York City, observers in an exotic land, lived in DC and witnessed the voices of diversity, but never in my life have I experienced the diversity of thought and socioeconomic levels in such a short time and in such a small place.
Community dinner with people of the earth, wine tasting with the affluent, dinner with the cross section of farmers and business men across the Rocky Mountains and a view of the valley that’s etched in my memory forever. And that was just the first few days. Then there was the Olathe Sweet Corn Fest, a community meeting that brought it all together, dining near an orchard, and a Rodeo that dug it’s spurs in at a time in American History that reminds us of our humanity.
And that was the time we spent outside of the studio this week! Within these creative walls, we got so much done, I wrote so many letters, Ray posted on his blog, and we ate a lot of peaches in the process.
Farm to Table
What was I thinking when I asked Addy, “I noticed you have a Farm to Table meeting on Monday…do you have a visual practitioner capturing the meeting?” It’s a small town of 1,500 in rural Colorado. We were standing in a Trading Post full of farm good and products crafted from the surrounded land. Duh, I’m a city girl asking a naturalist about flour and graphic recording? Oops. No, the answer was no. “Well then, do you mind if I hang up some paper and capture the ideas of the group?”
Lettering Tips Tuesday
I thought I was so cool. I’ve taught a few people in the past week how to use Zoom and I was getting better with the multi-device login to use a spectator camera. In a last-minute switch between laptop to iPad the recording didn’t take and I had no idea until after a power-packed hour of lettering with an international audience. Ugh!
Ortho-Bionomy in Paonia
During our tour of Paonia on the first day I noticed a local Ortho-Bionomy practitioner’s office. This week I had the great opportunity to have my first session in over 6 months. It was fun to learn about the mutual people we know and it reminded me of my own training that I started in 2004 at the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts and when I supported the Society of Ortho-Bionomy with their newsletter.
Pickin’ in the Park
Anyone have a stuffed bird? I was hoping to garner a big one on my shoulder as I wrote out kids names in calligraphy. But the antebellum hat with the large rose and bird worked too.
It was a day of shock and fear as the events in Charlottesville unfolded. The thought of humanity dropping to an all-time low, wondering how values can be so different among us, how so many have not evolved in their thinking. When Ray suggested a few days ago that we visit the County Fair Rodeo, it seemed like a good idea. But when we went it seemed so surreal.
I dig a good dive into culture and seeing people in their element. It didn’t bother me that I was the only person wearing hiking pants and dock shoes or that people were staring at me. It was the prayer that the announcer made before the event to bless the participants of the rodeo and their “animal athletes” that surprised me. I’m glad he thought of the cowboys and spectators. What I was taken aback by was there was no mention of those who died in Charlottesville or what was happening in our country. In a packed arena of 99% white people, I instantly questioned if this was an act of forgetfulness, ignorance, or blatant disregard. I reminded myself that it’s important not to mix what’s happening in Virginia with the population here. And that it’s important that we not combine what’s happening with those who are actively spreading hate and the president who gave them a voice in the first place with those who may have voted for him or those who share the same values. I can’t help but wonder how we will ever cross these great divides. When I was in DC, my job was to encourage group participatory decision making. With a background of Appreciative Inquiry I focus on the unifying lifeforces that help us create the realities we want. All personal beliefs aside, as a professional and a human what do I do with this? Other than say that racism is not okay? I could only imagine myself in Charlottesville screaming, “this is not okay!” What will it take to make this stop? There doesn’t seem to be a rock bottom or an undeniable truth for those to see what they are doing is wrong.
By being a white woman, if I just do what I can to cope or work to make the world I live in better makes me a target for the social stigma that I have white privilege. There is no winner in this. And the forces and powers that be are leveraging us against one another. It’s time to take our power back. We have missed all of our previous opportunities, now its time. Please, do what you can in your power to pull yourself together to make a difference in your and other people’s lives.
Leaving this place better than when we found it is the least we can do for future generations, for ourselves and each other.
As we drove north of Mancos through Dolores, Rico, Telluride, and Ridgeway I kept asking myself why I ever left this beautiful place. But when I remember how I felt while I was here before, I fully understood why I had to leave, why I had to go to DC. When you have a burning desire to do more than what’s right in front of you, you can’t possibly get there by continuing to do the same thing, you have to find another way. DC was my way of seeing if I could make it as a full-time visual practitioner, work in a big city, and be part of a team of like-minded people working passionately with a shared vision. As a result, the Visioneering team is the model team that I will base every team I form or contribute to in the future. To be high-performing, continually innovating, and growing individually as well as together as team has been the most fulfilling career experience I have had to date. I can’t thank my colleagues enough for creating a space for me to be successful and for supporting me during this big life transition. I am forever grateful for their creative partnership and friendship.
Now it’s time to carry all of the goodness I have learned and share it with the next community I am part of. My hope is that Ray and I will find our place in SWCO. We have been looking into places to live, housesit, work, and contribute to creative, community projects. And the options are far more abundant than I ever realized. Over the last few months I kept hearing myself say I wasn’t sure what I would do in SWCO and I was afraid it was too small for me to be satisfied. However, in the past few days I have discovered that the Mancos community has become so rich in the arts that I drool just thinking about the chance to be part of it again.
When Ray and I founded the “Sharing the 81328 Perspective” and Arts Perspective magazine, we felt Mancos had the potential to be a rich art town. I often reminded people inside and outside of Mancos that “we didn’t have a ski resort, hot springs, or train. We had an abundance of artists.” And the arts are the richest resource when it comes to culture. Sure it’s not oil or technology, but it’s something we all need and come back to in great times of need.
When I read that Mancos’ own Tami Graham and Susan Lander from Durango have recently been named council members of the Colorado Creative Industries, I was thrilled to see the representation. These women have dedicated countless years of their lives to support and enrich music and the arts in Southwest Colorado. And to see the large sign hung downtown marking Mancos as a creative district, my heart is full knowing that despite the current administration’s cuts to the arts artists are still making in SWCO.
Surprisingly, we never met Peggy and Lee when we lived in Mancos. It was much later as we were selling the magazine and getting ready to get married that I did some work for them to help with marketing that we traded a room for Ray and I to get away and plan for our future together. Nestled in the mountains just Northwest of Mancos, our family stayed at Willowtail during our wedding celebration, and I’ve spent many nights in trade and pay to be on the land. The view of the LaPlatas over the lake from the Lakehouse is one of the best I’ve witnessed in the valley. And the view from the other side of the lake looking back is surreal as the surroundings. HIgh mountain desert is where my heart belongs.
Willowtail has been the birthplace and home for many creative ideas. From riparian center to artist residency and of course the many who have stayed over the years as guests, you can read about the impact on guests in the guestbooks in each cabin. My favorite is the Bungalow. Who wouldn’t love to soak in an antique clawfoot tub with the Willowtail salt scrub after a long day’s hike? Or to lie under an abandoned beehive that has been archived by being encased in Lexan? Of course the Garden Cottage and Lakehouse are wonderful too. But it was in the Bungalow where I first stayed and made many memories with family and friends.
I can’t say enough about the property and the magic that Peggy and Lee bring. If you ever visit, and I hope you will, only then can you understand. You have to experience it.
Just as I was leaving SWCO the publishing landscape was changing, magazines were folding across the country and newspapers were going through changes too. The Ballantine family now owners of The Durango Herald, The Cortez Journal, Pine River Times, Dolores Star and Mancos Times have been dedicated to publishing and community since purchasing the Durango Herald (previously the Herald Democrat and News) in 1952. Three generations of publishing and generous community support, especially in the arts, have helped shaped the culture in SWCO.
When it was time to move the Mancos Times office to Cortez, the doors closed like a time capsule preserving the remaining treasures from over 120 years of publishing inside. I had the distinct pleasure to spend a day in the space and research the history years ago and again this past week in our short visit before hitting the road again.
Betsy Harrison and Matt Neff, Director of the Common Press at the University of Pennsylvania, were kind enough to fill me in on the current status, the future vision and the immediate needs of what is now known as the Mancos Common Press. While standing in the space, I had flashbacks of my explorations from years earlier while recollecting all of my visits to vanity and boutique presses in DC. This place is special and with Matt’s help, I can clearly see the vision of the organization and space, it’s connection with the region on an educational level, the contribution it will make on the local arts community, and the bookmark it was and continues to be in Mancos’ historical continuum.
Heading off to the next art residency, I’m itching to get back and get involved in some way. Meanwhile, I’m putting the pieces together for myself and reading articles to catch up on all that’s going on. Here’s a story from the beginning of the restoration project and great photo of the Cranston press.
Paonia…a creative surprise
Going back to the beginning of this week’s post, driving through the mountains and high desert to Paonia was a journey in itself. Not because of the stops we made along the way, we pretty much drove straight through, but the memories and stories we shared during the drive. Ray described the view of the Fourteeners he has climbed in this area, our past visits to and through Rico and Telluride before and while we owned the magazine, what life may be like if we moved back, and how out of all of the beautiful places we have seen over the past 5 months, nothing compares to this landscape and the people on the Western Slope.
On first glance, Paonia is a small town surrounded by orchards and farmland, and filled with earthy people. But with just 2 days into our residency—along with making art—Daniel’s tour of the town revealed a local public radio station, High Country News (a nationally known and reputable news organization), several tasty eateries, Revolation Brewery, and a thriving arts community rich in music, visual and performing arts.
Thursday night we attended Pickin’ in the Park, a free weekly community music gathering, where over 500 people from this ~1,500 person town gathered to listen to Bluegrass icon Peter Rowan. And on Friday Ray and I shared our work, alongside of four other artists to a larger than expected and incredibly engaged crowd in the main studio at Elsewhere.
Michelle Mercer, writer and NPR commentator shared her coming to story and her first NPR story about Regina Carter the first non-classical violinist to be asked to play “The Cannon.” You can hear t story here.
While we all have an opportunity to enjoy Michelle’s collection of rich musical commentary, here at Elsewhere we also get to enjoy the company of her expressive 5-year-old son and husband, symphony bassist Marc who delighted us by playing a classical piece at first, then guided us on a jazz journey. It was in this moment that I looked around the room and realized how lucky we all are to have access to this level of talent, what an asset Elsewhere is to Paonia, and how lucky Ray and I are to be here.
Many of you know how much Ray does not like to draw attention to himself, talk about himself, and does not like speaking in front of others. But his storytelling came out and he generously shared the stories of his time documenting protests in DC and the people he has met along our journey. I was blown away at how he can recollect the stories of everyone he met.
Maya Rendon, an 18-year-old painter and mixed-media artist, has a stoic presence while sharing hints of passion around both the musical and visual works of Kurt Cobain. She shared her visual response to a job application and invited us to her studio where she is experimenting with texture and color in an abstract way.
While recent MFA Fiction Writing graduate Charlie Schneider will be out for two weeks spending time at Bread Loaf and missing our final Open Studio presentation, we had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a recent first draft that he wrote the day before. From the vantage point of a 17-year-old girl who’s family may have been responsible for the lynching of 34 coal-miners, Charlie’s ability to empathically become the character whose point of view he is writing from reminds us how important history plays into our modern culture and the impact it has on self-identification.
And I concluded the evening by sharing how I plan to build a bridge between my fine and commercial work by continuing my studies in Flow, Panarchy, and combining it with the transpersonal work I’m doing with the upcoming Eclipse. All works on paper, I’m planning a series of small books, starting by working out ideas and concepts using traditional art materials and then translating those onto black and kraft papers with acrylic inks by Neuland. And since we are in the Disseminating Phase of the Waning Moon, this is the perfect time to share out what I have learned and the goodness culminated from this inspirational place.
And now as I push send, we are on our way to the annual Olathe Sweet Corn Festival before heading to a community dinner at a local farm. Hopefully Ray will get some good photos while I hold a space of creative tension: trying to have fun in the moment with a sketchbook in hand in case I need to capture the fleeting idea as it passes by.